Alun Thorne introduces the Creative Industries category in the Birmingham Post Business Awards.
Five years ago, the city’s creative sector was regarded as something of a fringe player, with only a few big-name advertising, marketing and PR firms making it into the mainstream business consciousness.
But the tremendous pace of digital growth over the last few years has generated an army of new and fast-growing businesses built on their understanding of changing technology.
The insight and flexibility of these firms are helping traditional West Midland sectors like manufacturing and professional services improve their global competitiveness in a digital era.
Despite a tough few years for some, the West Midlands’ creative industries have proved resilient throughout the recession.
Although a few firms have suffered as their clients in industries like automotive and manufacturing have borne the brunt of the recession, the sector has bounced back strongly with a renewed focus on future opportunities for growth offered by the digital sector.
But that’s not to forget the traditional advertising, marketing and PR firms who have continued to make a splash over the nation’s airwaves and newspapers.
Creative industry hubs like the Custard Factory, the Big Peg, Fazeley Studios and Birmingham Science Park have played their part in strengthening the sector, giving small firms a place to grow, network and subcontract work out among specialist firms.
These mutually beneficial clusters can be found all over the region - Leamington Spa for example has earned itself the nickname Silicon Spa thanks to the presence of global computing game firms like Codemasters and Blitz Studios.
Innovative hubs like these have created their own centre of gravity, pulling in firms from outside the region who have seen what is going on and want to be part of it.
Microsoft’s Rare Games, for example, recently took space at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth, attracted by the exciting work going on at home-grown digital firms there.
The region’s increasing profile in the creative industries is forcing London to sit up and pay attention.
Whereas traditionally, the capital was perceived to have the monopoly on creative thinking, buyers are now realising they can get access to talent and innovation in the West Midlands at a far lower price than they would have to pay for London agencies.
Thanks to the efforts of firms in the region, big-name global clients are now choosing small regional players for their creative needs.
The likes of Speedo, BSkyB and Nokia, to name but a few, have recently selected local firms for their campaigns, meaning creative ideas minted in the West Midlands are making waves around the world.